In the great north woods (part 5)

Day 7
The campfire smoke hovers over the Toad River before it moves slowly downstream. The river is silver grey, dusk like the evening sky. Dusk lasts forever up here. It gets dark around 10 pm, but you can still see a bit of light in the southern sky all through the night. Earlier in the day the river was a tropical glacial aqua, a startling dash of color through the grey of the stone peaks and the dark green of the forest. We followed it, jutting off the main road onto an unpaved piece of the old Alaska Highway. A glacial moraine had completely washed out the old highway and at one point, and later on, the river had swept away the wooden bridges so we pushed our bikes through the rough hewed stones. If we had biked thirty years earlier, our entire route would be mud and gravel.
After we rejoined the new road, we encountered a road crew. We couldn't ride through the freshly laid tar, but Heather, a local resident, was waiting near the front of the traffic line in a king-size white pickup truck and offered to drive our team across. Riding through the dust clouds she told us about life in Toad Creek, population 43, where more than half the population had had a nasty encounter with a bear and children were only allowed outside to play in the company of bear dogs.
When she drops us off at the end of the construction zone, Heather offers us fresh pickings from her garden, and after almost a week of sausage and tuna and pre-cooked Tasty-Bites, we are thrilled. We follow the directions she gives us down a long dirt drive to the cabin where she and her husband have raised three daughters completely off the grid.
Her garden is thriving. Rows of green peas and beets, potatoes and kale. Fresh lettuce and rhubarb and carrots and dill. I am amazed that with the ridiculously short summers here she is able to produce this bounty.
Photo: The old highway (Isan Brant)

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